Tag Archives: LexArts

Arts

A Blueprint for What?

President Trump’s proposed Make America Great Again Budget Blueprint eliminates funding for both the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Both entities – created by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 – are being lumped into a category of programs ‘that just don’t work’, according to White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

“A lot of those programs that we target, they sound great, don’t they? They always do. They don’t work. A lot of them simply don’t work. I can’t justify them to the folks who are paying the taxes. I can’t go to the autoworker in Ohio and say ‘please give me some of your money so that I can do this program over here, someplace else, that really isn’t helping anybody.” – Mick Mulvaney.

Also included in the list of programs that ‘just don’t work’ are the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

For the moment, let’s focus on the NEA. According to Americans for the Arts, the NEA’s annual appropriation supports a $730 billion dollar arts and culture industry, 4.8 million jobs and a $26 billion trade surplus for the nation. For Kentucky, the elimination of funding for this entity would result in a cut to programs supported by the Kentucky Arts Council – which, according to Nan Plummer, President and CEO of LexArts, would mean “a dramatic overall decrease in funding for the arts in Lexington, Kentucky.”

The Kentucky Arts Council (KAC) receives state partnership funding from the NEA (the only agency that so authorized). The KAC grants a combination of state monies and these NEA funds in the form of unrestricted operating grant to support to fifteen Fayette County organizations:

  • Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning
  • Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra Society
  • Central Music Academy
  • Explorium of Lexington
  • Headley-Whitney Museum
  • Institute 193
  • Kentucky Ballet Theatre
  • LexArts
  • Lexington Art League
  • Lexington Ballet Company
  • Lexington Chamber Chorale
  • Lexington Children’s Theatre
  • Lexington Philharmonic
  • Lexington Singers
  • and the Living Arts & Science Center.

Plummer further notes that while “these are not necessarily large percentages of these organizations’ budgets, a typical KAP grant of about $20,000 represents half a salary, which may represent an entire position. No people, no programs.”

Plummer acknowledges that we have been fortunate here in Lexington to have received a number of direct grants from the NEA. “In the last few years LexArts has been the successful applicant for funding for public sculpture and creative place-making like NoLI CDC LuigART Makers Spaces.”  Other area organizations receiving NEA funds directly in recent years include Central Music Academy and Lexington Children’s Theatre.

The influence of art and the humanities is seen, heard and felt throughout the economy. An example is the Lexington marketing and branding company, Bullhorn Creative. Brad Flowers is its co-founder (along with Griffin Van Meter) and oversees day-to-day operations. He spoke with UnderMain’s Tom Martin:

Jane Chu is the 11th appointed Chair of the NEA nominated by Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2014. She states, “We are disappointed because we see our funding actively makes a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation.”

Apparently, a number in Congress feel the same. As noted in ArtForum, a bipartisan group of 24 Senators submitted a letter to the President calling for continued support of both the NEA and the NEH.

“Access to the arts for all Americans is a core principle of the Endowment. The majority of NEA grants go to small and medium-sized organizations, and a significant percentage of grants fund programs in high-poverty communities. Furthermore, both agencies extend their influence through states’ arts agencies and humanities councils, ensuring that programs reach even the smallest communities in remote rural areas.” -from the letter written by twenty-four bipartisan United States senators

The NEA and NEH cannot advocate for themselves as independent agencies of the federal government. We must do it for them. Arts professionals around the world are uniting in protest to Trump’s Make America Great Again Budget Blueprint. Americans for the Arts has issued a ‘Save the NEA’ Action Alert, encouraging each of us to contact members of Congress and reminds us that it takes only a few minutes of our time to do so.

President and CEO Robert L. Lynch states, “President Trump does not yet realize the vast contribution the NEA makes to our nation’s economy and communities, as well as to his own agenda to create jobs ‘made and hired’ in America. We know that the work on the FY2018 budget will continue until at least October 2017. Along the way, there are many points in the process where Americans for the Arts, with arts advocates and partners from across the country, will be united in communicating with Congress and the American people to make sure they know the impact of the arts in their states and districts and in our nation.”

The American Association of Museum Directors (245 art museum directors in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico) has also put out a statement in support of cultural organizations for whom these funds are vital.

“The arts are a shared expression of the human spirit and a hallmark of our humanity. Art touches people throughout their lives—from toddlers first learning about the world, to those with Alzheimer’s disease reconnecting with someone they love. Museums offer art programs to help teachers and homeschoolers prepare lessons, to train medical students to be better doctors, to ease the suffering of veterans with PTSD, and to share with people across the country the best of creative achievement.” – AAMD.

UnderMain is interested in your thoughts and comments, particularly if you are an arts professional working in Kentucky. Here are just a few additions; we will update as they arrive.

“Trump’s plan to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, directly reflects his careless treatment of our country and all that we hold dear. The Arts provide an important space where diversity, inclusion, creativity, innovation, and risk-taking are celebrated and encouraged. Art is a reflection of our country and all of its people in the purest form. To cut funding for the Arts, is a statement on what this administration values, as they try to eliminate the very source of brilliance that has defined civilization since its very beginning.”  – Stephanie Harris, Director (Lexington Art League)

“For half a century the American government has been using the NEA to fund and promote our best artists, writers, musicians, dancers, performers, filmmakers, educators, and an ever-widening class of creative thinkers. It is an honor to receive support from the NEA, which has helped to foster generations of artists who admire the US government for contributions toward strengthening American culture. The agency is a vital tool for maintaining positive relations with our most imaginative citizens. It would be a massive loss to our cultural legacy to see it lay dormant” – Joey Yates, Curator – KMAC (Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft)

NEA

Naked existence again.

Night encourages aggression.

Nothing engages anthem.

Nipple event announced.

Nausea exhibition anticipated.

Never endure absence.

New entertainment atrophies.

No excrement available. 

Nudge abstract eating.

Nitwit executive asphyxiated.

Now eagerly applaud.

Stuart Horodner, Director, University of Kentucky Art Museum

Arts

Plenty to Consider: Sparks & Marks at Arts Place Gallery

Sparks & Marks, an exhibition on view at Arts Place Gallery in downtown Lexington pairing works made by local artists Gordon Gildersleeve and Lawrence Tarpey, offers two individuals who are to be regularly counted amongst local artists of caliber. Gildersleeve creates an array of sculptures and furniture from a combination of wood, stainless steel, and other metals while Tarpey’s two-dimensional works earn their distinction from their miniature sizes and expressive marks. Both artists incorporate fantastical as well as figurative elements into the objects they make: it is this commonality that is the foundation of Sparks & Marks.

Lawrence Tarpey, Red’s World, 2016

Indeed, the similarities between Gildersleeve and Tarpey are prime for a lively duet. The majority of sculptures on display contain abstracted faces made from minimal amounts of metal scraps and barn wood. Likewise, the selection of Tarpey’s etchings is largely grayscale and comprised of individual scenes featuring small numbers of figures, animals, and undetermined shapes. Tarpey’s approach to storytelling is modest and vague: large areas of his etchings are dedicated to materiality and texture, exemplified by works like Red’s World (n.d). In Sparks & Marks, deliberate use of negative space is pressing here. The exhibition positions Gildersleeve and Tarpey as masters of their chosen materials who understand the visual footprint of each object they make.

Installation view, Sparks and Marks, ArtsPlace Gallery

Installation view, Sparks and Marks, ArtsPlace Gallery

Although these two artists are alike in the ways in which they incorporate negative space into their objects, they differ in their chosen subject matter—Tarpey’s scenes provoke feelings of ambiguity and transcendence while Gildersleeve’s sculptures push the boundaries of abstract figuration. Yet this difference cues another comparison. Tarpey’s dreamy depictions resemble compositions made by modern masters such as Marc Chagall and Joan Miro. Additionally, Gildersleeve seems to channel famous cubists like Picasso and Georges Braque. For this reason Sparks & Marks serves as an exploration in how the lineage of these notable art historical figures is continued on a local level.

With 49 objects in total, Sparks & Marks fully allows the idiosyncrasies of each artist to be present in the gallery. Those familiar with Tarpey’s practice will recognize many of his works in the exhibition employ the techniques and content they are used to seeing, including additive and reductive processes as well as amorphous forms. These and more are on display, as are examples of Tarpey’s recent experimentations in digital painting. Gildersleeve’s expansive practice is marked by metal renderings of human figures, birds, and everyday objects as well as pieces of furniture. Sparks & Marks emphasizes the abilities of both Gildersleeeve and Tarpey by means of an eclectic checklist, ensuring that each visitor realizes the extent to which these two artists deserve notoriety.

In the gallery, however, visitors are likely to feel crammed as they move through the space due to the amount of works on display. Arts Place Gallery is an accommodating gallery split in two sections, but the room is unable to maintain its spaciousness when it holds nearly fifty works. The exhibition design limits the audience’s ability to move freely around each work and consequently visitors are subjected to minimal viewing angles. While the checklist for Sparks & Marks demonstrates the impressive talents of each artist, it makes for a congested arena for art and viewer to interact.

Additionally, the checklist includes what seems like multiple bodies of work from each artist. Notably, Gildersleeve’s diverse subjects—human forms, faces, birds, and furniture—assist in preventing Sparks & Marks from making the strongest connection possible between its two featured artists. At times, this all-encompassing exhibition feels more like a showcase for two artists who are relatively similar and less like a study in specific regional aesthetic trends.

In spite of this, the number of works in Sparks & Marks detail the trajectory each artist has taken with his own work to arrive at their current states. The gallery acts as a roadmap that highlights Gildersleeve’s and Tarpey’s progression with subject matter, materials, and craftsmanship. Specifically, Tarpey’s path as a small-scale painter to a digital artist is encouraging and compelling—it is a humbling moment for those who have closely followed Tarpey’s career. In the same vein, the 49 objects are on loan from galleries, collectors, and the artists themselves. Gildersleeve and Tarpey clearly have support from members of the greater community, and Sparks & Marks sets out to make that known. It is a vague connection between the two artists, however, that is the exhibition’s shortcoming.

Sparks & Marks runs from July 14th to August 27th, 2016 at Arts Place Gallery, Lexington, KY.

Arts

Slave Memorial Public Art RFQ

LexArts Inc. in association with the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial seek artists to create public art that recognizes slave graves both marked and unmarked in the Lake Cumberland area.  This artwork will create a visual landmark within the community. The goal is to commission proposals by three experienced public artists for the site with the expectation of realizing one of the proposals next year, according to a LexArts statement.   There is no application fee to enter.

Project Description
The Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial board was created in an effort “To recognize and honor slaves and their burial sites in the Lake Cumberland area, to demonstrate that every person be regarded with dignity and respect.” Goals/Objectives to accomplish the mission include the following:

•      To recognize and honor those sold into slavery in our community.
•      To demonstrate to all that these lives are not forgotten, that these lives made a difference.
•      To bring dignity and respect to their final resting place.
•      To make every effort to learn the names of those buried.
•      To promote inclusiveness of everyone in the life of our community.
•      To develop an educational program that illustrates the daily life of a slave and the many contributions they made.

slave_coffle

Project Budget
The project budget is $50,000.  The budget is negotiable but must include travel, research, design, execution, insurance, taxes, site preparation and materials.    LexArts will confirm the feasibility of completing the project within the estimated project budget during preliminary design.

Project Site
The selected site remains uncertain. Various sites have been proposed. The City of Somerset has offered multiple locations but the most logical site is on the grounds of The Mill Springs Battlefield Museum and Visitors Center.  The Mill Springs Battlefield Museum and Visitors Center board has identified three locations on the grounds of the museum. The selected artist will have the opportunity to suggest locations that best displays their work.

Timeline

Deadline for Artist Qualifications                                      May 30, 2016

Artist Notification                                                                 June 8, 2016

Finalist Proposals Due                                                          July 15, 2016
 
Application Guidelines (Incomplete Submissions will not be accepted)
Apply here.
Required:
– A one page artist statement describing public art experience and interest in the project.
– A current resume (no more than three pages)
– Up to 6 digital images of past mural / art work in .jpg format no larger than 500 kb each. Each file must be named with the artist’s surname and image number to correspond to an image list (e.g. 01 Smith).

For more information, please contact Nathan Zamarron at 859-255-2951 or nzamarron@lexarts.org 

Eligibility
We are committed to a policy of providing opportunities to people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age, veteran status, or physical disability.  Any artist may apply.
 
Selection Process
The submitted qualifications will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of artists, arts professionals and community leaders. The images from the top artists will be exhibited in a gallery setting allowing the public to vote on their favorite works.   Using public input as one component in the selection process, the committee will identify three finalists.   The three selected finalists will have the opportunity to visit the site, meet with LexArts and community representatives.  Finalists will be paid $500 to develop a design and deliver a proposal of composition, concept statement and process.  A review of the final design will be conducted by the selection committee. One artist or artist team will be selected to realize their proposal.

Critical Selection Factors
• Resonance with the project description
• Artistic distinction
• Public Safety
• Low maintenance, durability
• Contextual integration into a specific urban site and its intrinsic character

The strength of the submitted images of past artworks demonstrating ability of the artist(s) to complete similar or related projects will be considered critical selection factors. In addition, the Committee is interested in a wide variety of creative solutions to the challenges of an outdoor public artwork.

Request for Proposals (Phase II)
Successful proposals will be expected to provide:

•A written document expressing the conceptual framework and artistic point of view that will guide development of the project ;

•One or more drawings of the proposed work of art; models are optional. Drawings and/or models should illustrate the conceptual relationships between the artwork and its environment.

•A timeline and budget (not to exceed $50,000) for production and installation;

•A detailed list of materials and construction requirements, with attention to issues of durability, maintenance and public safety.

Brief history of Lake Cumberland Area
Pulaski County was established in 1798, at that time the county went all the way down to the old Tennessee line between Wayne and Knox and the southern part of the county was Indian land.  In 1800 a part of Pulaski became Wayne and in 1802 there was no longer any Indian land.  Then in 1826 several acres of the southern part of Kentucky was now Tennessee with McCreary County being formed in 1912 from the Southern part of Pulaski and part of Wayne and Whitley.

The city of Somerset was founded in 1789 by Thomas Hansford and received its name for Somerset County, New Jersey, where some of the early settlers had come from. It was incorporated as a city in 1887 and made the county seat.  Point Isabel was on Lake Cumberland just south of Somerset, in 1890 and was renamed Burnside for General Ambrose Burnside, Union general during the Civil War.

Pulaski County is known as having a significant Civil War battle.  The battle of Mill Springs (also known as the battle of Fishing Creek {Confederate terminology} and battle of Logan’s Cross Roads {Union terminology}), was fought in both Pulaski and Wayne Counties, near Nancy.  It was the first win for the Union Army on January 19, 1862.  At the present time there is a Museum next to the National Cemetery in Nancy, Kentucky.  The Battle of Mill Springs Battlefield Association is at the present time working on the Museum, battlefield and other battlefield property in Wayne County becoming National.

Upon researching it has come to knowledge that Pulaski County had 149 slave owners in the past.  It was also found out that there are many of the cemeteries that have unmarked slave graves.  It would only be right that we recognize these slaves.  The slaves were in old Pulaski, McCreary, and Wayne Counties – hence Lake Cumberland Slaves.

Research Links
 
Information on Lake Cumberland can be found by visiting these sites:

Arts

Kuhn in the Congo – who knew?

UnderMain would like to acknowledge the work of another one of our own: Christine Kuhn. Last year Kuhn was among four muralists to participate in a cultural exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Kuhn worked with Congolese artists and students from November to December 2014 to create murals in Kinshasa, Matadi and Bukavu. Back home in Lexington, Kentucky, we knew nothing of it – Kuhn received no coverage.

For more on her experiences, check out her blogpost.

Kuhn is a working artist, art teacher and activist specializing in using art to empower non-artists and to promote liberal social change. She holds degrees in biology, chemistry and diplomacy and is a graduate of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Training Program.

“My art focuses on expressing right-brain, non-rational experiences–emotion, passion, humor, fear, symbolism, in short, the magical and mystical elements of existence,” Christine told us. “I have exhibited widely throughout the Southeastern US, in Central America, Africa and in Bulgaria and have received numerous grants from the Kentucky Arts Council, LexArts and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.”

If you are not familiar with Kuhn’s work or you just need another dose, stop by Source on High during LexArts’ May Gallery Hop for her solo exhibition – that’s Friday, May 15th – or, find these murals in and around the Lexington area. Do you know where they are? UnderMain would like to know that you know. Find them, take selfies, send them to editorial@undermain.com and watch this article grow!

Arts

LexArts: Artist Selected for Bridge Public Art Project

Artwork Will Create Visual Landmark for Major City Corridor 

Lexington, KY – Artist Christopher Weed has been chosen and commissioned to create public art that will soon adorn the Oliver Lewis Way Bridge, located just south of the intersection of Main Street and Newtown Pike, and bordering the Lexington Distillery District. Weed’s proposal, Origins, is a series of six illuminated, abstract sculptures,symbolically representing the charring of oak barrels, used in the aging of bourbon.

These sculptures will stand the test of time and serve as a distinguished reminder of Lexington’s storied past, present and bright future.

In September of last year, LexArts Inc., in association with 2nd District Council Member Shevawn Akers and the LFUCG Corridors Commission, issued a call to artists for the project, resulting in over 100 submissions from across the United States, Canada and Europe. An initial round narrowed the field to three finalists. After a visit to Lexington, each created site-specific proposals and presented them to the public and to a selection committee comprised of artists, arts professionals and community leaders. After significant public input and a thorough review by the committee, Weed was unanimously chosen for the project.

Said juror Andrea Fisher of Transylvania University, speaking on behalf of the committee, “All three artists were extremely well qualified, had thought carefully about their submissions, and offered aesthetically pleasing designs. However, it was the work of Coloradoan Christopher Weed that captured the history and aspirations of Lexington most profoundly. His abstracted interpretation of burning bourbon barrels is a perfect gateway into the Distillery District and the classical element of flame is an appropriate counterpoint to the waters of Town Branch running below the Oliver Lewis Way Bridge. Furthermore, the light sculptures resemble glowing torches, emblematic of hope, energy, and passion, wonderful descriptors of Lexington’s current zeitgeist.”

“Christopher Weed’s Origins will transform the Newtown corridor and become an iconic landmark for our downtown and the Distillery District,” continued Council Member Akers. “This project is the culmination of intentional design, a grand idea and a terrific collaboration between LFUCG, LexArts and the citizens of Lexington. I am so proud to be part of it. ”

“LexArts is honored to have a role in the creation of this defining work of public art for Lexington and her visitors,” explained Nan Plummer, LexArts President & CEO. “Working with the artists, the selection committee and Council Member Akers has been both a pleasure and a privilege. The unveiling of Chris Weed’s executed design this fall will be an exciting moment for everyone in the community.”

Weed will begin work immediately and will complete the project in time for dedication and unveiling during Breeder’s Cup Festival Week, a week long series of events to be held October 24-31 that will celebrate the first time the Breeder’s Cup World Championships will be held at Lexington’s historic Keeneland Race Course.

Arts

Artist Finalists To Present Proposals for Oliver Lewis Way Bridge Public Art

LexArts Inc., in association with 2nd District Council Member Shevawn Akers and the LFUCG Corridors Commission, earlier this year issued a call to artists to create public art that enhances the Oliver Lewis Way Bridge, located just south of the intersection of Main Street and Newtown Pike.

The three finalists, Blessing Hancock, Guy Kemper, and Christopher Weed, have created site-specific proposals (links below) and will present them to the public at 5:30pm today (2/11). The presentations will be made at the MS Rezny Studio and Gallery at 903 Manchester Street in the Distillery District, a fitting location as the bridge, designed on a volunteer basis by Lexington brother-architects Graham and Clive Pohl specifically to accommodate art, is within eyesight and most guests will travel the Oliver Lewis Way bridge to arrive at the venue.

Over the past two weeks, the proposals have been on display for public discussion and voting at ArtsPlace, the Downtown Arts Center and the LFUCG Government Center. After the public presentations, a final review of the site-specific proposals, with consideration from the public’s votes, will be conducted by the selection committee and one artist or artist team will be selected to realize their proposal.

The budget for the project is $100,000, making this one of the largest public art projects the city of Lexington has ever commissioned. While the timeline for completion will not be known until the selection of the winning design, the intention is for Lexington’s newest public art project to be unveiled and dedicated in time for Keeneland and the city of Lexington to welcome guests to the Breeder’s Cup World Championships, one of Thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious international events. That event is scheduled to take place on the final weekend of October of this year.

VIEW THE PROPOSALS:

Christopher Weed

Guy Kemper

Blessing Hancock

Arts

LexArts Announces 2016 Grants Opportunities

The LexArts Board of Directors announced this morning that applications are now being accepted for General Operating Support (GOS) and Community Arts Development (CAD) Project and Program grants. Grants will be awarded to individual artists and arts and community organizations for specific programs with an arts or cultural focus that have clear artistic and social benefits and are accessible to the general public.

General Operating Support grants are made in amounts of $10,000 and above and provide unrestricted funds for general operating expenses including staff, overhead, and program costs. Funded arts organizations must demonstrate strong arts mission fulfillment, fiscal responsibility, sound management, and operate on a year-round basis.

Community Arts Development Grants are awarded on a competitive basis for project or program support.  Projects may include festivals, exhibitions, readings, performances, planning grants and artist publications. Programs may include festivals, a series of visual art exhibitions, and performing arts series, including music, theatre, dance and spoken word.

Project Grants vary in amounts from $500-$2,500, while Program Grants range from $2,500-$10,000. Last year $63,000 was awarded in total to 14 organizations.

“LexArts’ support of the arts in Central Kentucky is actually the support of hundreds and hundreds of people and companies, funneled through a rigorous and objective grant application process,” explains LexArts President and CEO, Dr. Ellen A. Plummer. “Experts in many arts disciplines, along with a committee from LexArts’ volunteer board, evaluate an organization’s artistic quality, fiscal readiness, and level of service. For thirty years now, this process assures all those investors in the arts that their investments are well-placed. As a result, Central Kentucky has a  rich variety of high quality arts offerings of which we can all be proud.”

Continued LexArts Grants Committee Chair David Smith, of Stoll Keenon Ogden, “Our Grants Committee has kept firm both the general operating and community arts development grants funding throughout and after the recession, at some internal financial distress to LexArts, and we look forward once again to providing as much support in 2015 to our cultural partners as our resources permit.”

Fiscal Year 2016 programming begins July 1, 2015 and continues through June 30, 2016. The application deadline for 2016 funding is March 13, 2015. Organizations who intend to apply for GOS funding, but have not previously received GOS funding, must submit an Intent to Apply form by February 13, 2015.  Provided grant funds are available, LexArts may also elect to accept Project Grant applications for review on a quarterly basis.

A Grants Workshop will be conducted at ArtsPlace, 161 North Mill Street, at 4pm on Monday, February 23. Prospective applicants should become familiar with the guidelines prior to the workshop. LexArts staff is also available to provide technical assistance and review draft proposals via one-on-one consultation. If a draft proposal is to be reviewed, it should be sent to the Community Arts Manager Nathan Zamarron prior to the consultation. Please call 859.255.2951 or send an email RSVP for the workshop or to schedule a consultation to nzamarron@lexarts.org.

Important Dates and Deadlines
GOS Intent to Apply Deadline Friday, February 13, 5pm
Grant Workshop Monday, February 23, 4pm
Grant Application Deadline Friday, March 13, 5pm
CAD Grant Review  Tuesday, April 21, 10am-Noon
 GOS Grant Review  Tuesday, April 28, 10am-Noon

More information, including eligibility and criteria guidelines, can be found athttp://lexarts.org/participate/Grants/, and the 2016 Grants Brochure is available here.Artists and not for profit arts groups interested in finding out more information may also contact Nathan Zamarron, LexArts Community Arts Manager, at 859.255.2951 or nzamarron@lexarts.org.

topical

White Ring: Reflections on the words of Wendell Berry

(Photo provided by the Carnegie Center for Learning and Literacy)

(Photo provided by the Carnegie Center for Learning and Literacy)

‘The survival of literacy in an age of illiteracy may require us to remember how physical, how much of the senses, the life of literacy is.’ – Wendell Berry (courtesy of the Carnegie Center, Lexington, Kentucky.)

I was sitting on the only piece of paper within reach – an oversize name tag reserving my chair for the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony of Wendell Berry. The paper was beige, dull, and heavy – not really of a character to form any sort of story. The letters of my name were nicely printed on it, each had serifs that matched the decorative embellishments framing the length of my name top and bottom.

Like a mother hen to egg; I guarded it as though it was something very special. The piece of paper was after all saving a chair for me in the front room of the Carnegie Center amidst some of the most dedicated writers, journalists, editors, and publishers in all of Kentucky. Equally important: I knew the opposite side of it was blank.

Guy Davenport (1927-2005), Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007), Effie Waller Smith (1879-1960), Jim Wayne Miller (1936-1996) and Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) were inducted that night too. Excerpts from the writings of each was selected as carefully as were the readers of them.  Ron Whitehead read Hunter S. Thompson’s words with a volume that was maybe intended to mimic Thompson’s humor but played more clearly as the rawness of life in the absence of his long-lost friend.

Mary Ellen Miller whispered through weaker vocal chords; reminiscing – with a melancholy that each of us could sense – on her late husband’s work.  Neil Chethik’s clear articulation as he introduced Wendell Berry removed any need for us to explain why we were there.

For me, each of the voices that spoke that night resounded more intently than the words spoken. There was something in the act of reading them aloud. They were comforting, familiar, communal sounds that we all know and I hope will continue to know.

Then, it was quiet as Wendell Berry – the first living inductee to be honored into the Hall of Fame – stepped up to read what he must have prepared as an acceptance speech. But, his cadence, his tonality, his sincerity and humility, and the words that filled the then hot room in the Carnegie Center on that cold January night in Lexington, Kentucky were a marked call-to-action.

No electronic devices, scratchings of pen on paper or the turning of pages interrupted as Berry made reference to many urgent public issues. He emphatically stated that in Kentucky we have no way to vet our concerns, no public forum, no healthy outlet for the a much needed dialogue about many things including the writings of Kentucky authors. There was only silence as he spoke of the ‘cloud of silence’. Postures shifted. I gently pulled the piece of paper from its resting place.

Berry continued noting that here in Kentucky ‘we have a sufficiency of writers of books, publishers of books, and readers of books, but no space for related public discourse.’ We roost with eyes closed, content on expressing our opinions in what has now become our public – the semi-private world of the Facebook and Twitter. As Leon Wieseltier notes in Among the Disrupted (New York Times, January 7, 2015) what we prefer now is a ‘twittering cacophony’ where alacritous and terse one-liners grant the highest of merits – a like, a comment. Cackling hens that only ding.

As the co-publisher of a young, fully digital magazine dedicated to arts and culture in Kentucky, I left feeling a keen sense of responsibility – not to explain what Wendell Berry had said, but to more fully understand it for myself. How much time do we have before something more significant is lost? What is my responsibility in the digital age? How can I help move us beyond what Wieseltier describes as the ‘lag between invention in the apprehension of its consequences’?

We cannot explain it fully, but my fellow UnderMain-ers and I have agreed to bring to our readers and our listeners reviews of books by Kentucky authors as well as the occasional reading. Just as in Berry’s move back to Kentucky, we might find sustenance in a new iteration of the sounding pages.

We thank the Carnegie Center for hosting the induction and for inviting us to attend. For a copy of the full text of Wendell Berry’s speech, click here.

For The Explainers
Spell the spiel of cause and effect
Ride the long rail of fact after fact;
What curled the plume of the Drake’s tail
and put the white ring around his neck?

– Wendell Berry

Arts

Our Conversation with Nan Plummer – First of Many

UnderMain would like to welcome Nan Plummer to the position of LexArts President and CEO.  What you are about to read is a recent and very casual conversation between Nan, my UnderMain colleague Tom Martin, and myself. Nan is a new-arrival on Planet Lexington and there is so much to discuss with her about the arts in our community as well as the broader Central Kentucky region. UnderMain is committed not only to opening this dialogue, but to continuing it in a series of discussions throughout the year. In future interviews, I hope to expand upon some of the concepts raised, including the viability of a United Arts Fund model for raising and granting monies and what that means for area arts organizations large and small; the role of the non-traditional arts from dance to music to the visual arts; the current state of theater; our specific history with public art; and our present and future opportunities for both the public and private sectors. Just as we consulted some of you about questions for this initial interview, your opinions and input are necessary for this conversation to evolve. We invite your thoughts via the UnderMain Facebook page.

Nan with her daughter, Maggie.

Nan with Communications Director Maury Sparrow and Operations Manager Alma Kajtazovic.

Nan with Nathan Zamarron, LexArts Community Arts Manager, and J. David Smith, Jr., Stoll Keenon Ogden and LexArts Grants Chair

Nan with Liz Swanson, artist, designer, and Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Kentucky College of Design

Nan with Allison Kaiser – Executive Director, LexPhil

Christine: Welcome Nan, and thank you for joining UnderMain today. Let’s begin by learning a little about your background and what attracted you to this position with LexArts.

Nan:   There are a bunch of things that drew me to this position. My whole career has been in the arts, mostly the visual arts, and in museums with really strong performing arts components, performing arts, and music especially. I’ve been on a diversion into being a full-time, frontline fundraiser for Arkansas Children’s Hospital – a place I have adored for a long time. And, it was just time for me to get back into the arts and take what I’ve learned in the training ground that was ACH back into something where I knew a lot more. I’ll be 60 on my next birthday and I know what I know and I do what I do. And, it occurred to me that not only would this make me happier, but I think that my best contribution will be taking what I’ve been doing for all this time and combine it with what I know and love in the arts. LexArts, because it helps so many people and so many organizations in such a broad context, just looked delicious and – you know – it just seemed like the perfect thing.

Christine: Yes, the role of the organization appears very broad in general. Do you see any real successes that you would like to continue or anything that you would like to eliminate with regard to LexArts’ recent history and its role in supporting the arts in our community?

Nan:  The big task ahead of us – because there are so many things that organizations like LexArts can do and does do across the country – is to find out what Lexington and Central Kentucky need LexArts to do right now. There are a lot of things we are very good at. The United Arts Fund model of raising money, for instance, for general operating support is not what it was in the 60’s and 70’s, but it isn’t broken and it’s still generating lots of income. So, raising money for the arts is something that I think LexArts needs to keep doing.

Tom: In that regard, LexArts has not seemed welcoming to the non-traditional music community in Lexington and I’m not sure why that is. I’m not finding fault, because I’m sure that there is some structural reason for that. Speaking for those of us who are not classical players, but nonetheless are working musicians with significant investment of funds and time and creativity, we do not feel supported by LexArts.

Nan: What would support  mean to you? Money? Which is important.

Tom: Well, it is, but it’s more than that. The compensation for what we do has to come from the market. I think we need help with marketing to the masses the fact that we have an historically vibrant music community here. Lots of songwriters, lots of musicians across a wide spectrum of genres.

Christine: It has been noted that for some in our community it appears that LexArts’  holds a primary allegiance to larger, more established organizations.

Nan: And here is the second thing I think LexArts needs to do, along with being clear about its mission: to remind people about its history. United Arts Funds were established to fund those big, grand, pillar organizations. In the 50’s and 60’s and 70’s those were the organizations that communities believed needed support in order for the arts to thrive. I think as time has gone on, people in general in UAF have figured out that an art scene is not only those great big organizations. But what would the arts be like in Lexington if those ceased to exist? So, the trick for LexArts is to remind people, this is how we got started. We don’t sit in the room and pick favorites. This is how we got started and we have to now broaden that. We tend to broaden our support maybe less quickly than the arts community springs up around us. So, while it may appear that way, it’s not a bias. Here is where we started and we can’t change where we started. That’s historical fact.

Christine: Let’s turn to our attention to the annual fund. The actual amount of funds raised for the annual fund, aside from the city’s contribution, seems very limited for a city of our size in a region as wealthy as ours. Nan, Is there anything that you think we could change to generate more giving?

Nan: Oh, absolutely. I think that there is a lot of potential to raise more money and I think that’s one of the reasons I was brought here, so that I’d spend a long time learning how to raise money. I’ve raised a lot of money for the arts in my other roles. So, sure, let’s go. There is no perfect leader for an organization, ever. No one is perfect.  Organizations, boards over time hire a series of imperfect and incomplete people whose strengths we hope  match the needs of the organization at that time. How many – have there only been two other directors?

Christine: Jim Clark was director for 14 years.  Dee Fizdale prior to that.

Nan: And the organization has changed a lot. It was founded under Dee, Jim changed it a lot. And so, they brought things that certainly I couldn’t have brought. I’m not the founder type and I’m learning everyday what my predecessor was good at that I’m not quite so good at. But, what I hope to be good at is fundraising and growing – growing the funding base and maturing LexArts’ fundraising ability so that it’s on par with the artistic activity here in Lexington. I think there’s a lot of potential. And getting back to the first question: why did I want to come here?Potential is really the core word; there is so much waiting to happen here. I’ve never seen a downtown like this, I really haven’t. It’s just the right size. I’m thinking about the skyscrapers and the lawyers and the bankers and, oh my gosh, all these artful places within walking distance. I know that there are other places like this, I’ve just never been this close to one.

Christine: And this growth, this particular sort of vibrancy is very new for Lexington. In fact, it has changed the conversation in Lexington about LexArts as a funding organization and specifically about transparency. Do you see how that that might be addressed in a more formal way? For instance, many non-profit organizations supply a 990 (a Form 990 is an annual reporting return that certain tax exempt organizations must file with the IRS).

Nan: Oh, we all must.

Christine: To my knowledge, LexArts does not make that readily available.

Nan: Of course we do – we must. If you walk into the building and ask for it, I am legally required under federal law to provide that to you within twenty four hours. You can also get it from the IRS website and you can also go to GuideStar and get it, so it’s publicly available.

Tom: This question came from somebody who’s been looking at the websites of similar organizations and found their 990’s readily available.

Nan: Oh, some organizations put it on their own website?

Tom: Uh-hm.

Nan: Making a note. Yeah, this is public information and I guess that what it always comes down to for me is, it’s not our money. If you work in a non-profit organization, it is not your money. And neither is the city money that we re-grant or the state money that we re-grant or the federal money that we pass through the other organizations or the federal money that we spend on public art projects. It’s not our money. And that’s why non-profit boards really need to take their fiduciary duty very, very seriously. I take it very seriously. And so I think part of the misunderstanding about LexArts’ affection for non-traditional arts groups is a lack of proactive transparency – education about how we make grants with the money that we raised and the money that we received.

Tom: That’s a two-way street. There will be those who just love to complain.

Nan: Yes.

Tom: But when you say, “Okay, what are you going to do about it? What are you willing to invest?” they often seem to disappear.

Nan: That’s human nature.

Tom: I think it would be really interesting to see what would happen if LexArts were to put that challenge to the non-traditional community and say to them, “We want to engage with you, you have to tell us how and you also have to tell us what you bring to the table; what can you do – you want us to do for you, what can you do for us?” Which creates…

Nan: It is a collaborative…

Tom: I’d love to see what would happen.

Nan: I’ve had a couple of conversations where arts group leaders have essentially said LexArts has favorites, ‘you sit in the room, you pick the big guys, you just – you like classical music to the exclusion of just about everything else.’ That’s not how the process goes. It’s an open grant process. There are five general operating support partners who are the core going back to when the organization was formed. And then, other organizations of almost every size may apply for project and program support. We serve as fiscal agent for organizations that aren’t even incorporated as 501(c)(3)s yet to help them get going. And so, if we’re not supporting you or we don’t seem to be interested it might be because you’ve never come to talk to us or looked into the process.

Tom: Would you say that those organizations who would like to see support from LexArts are not stepping forward and basically need to sharpen their pencils?

Nan: I think so and I think that that process, the way I understand it is that process has been ongoing – that Jim (Clark) did a great job at that, really professionalizing the application process because again, it’s not our money and when we give it away we aren’t just saying, “Oh, we love you, here you go,” “Oh, you bother me, go away.” No. They are as objective as we can make them. It’s not who we like better and who we don’t. Everybody who works at LexArts and everyone who sits on the grants committee – and it’s a committee, not the LexArts staff who makes the decisions – is a human being, last time I checked.  And so, we – we have emotions and preferences and are not immune to the things that other human beings respond to when they made judgments. So that’s why there is this process.

I’ve told my colleague, Nathan Zamarron who’s our programs guy that I think he’s brilliant, that he is a very, very good bureaucrat and that is a compliment. In fact, I would like to restore the nobility of that term. It’s a French term like amateur and dilettante that’s gotten a bad rap. A bureaucrat is someone who practices the art of the office, the art of administering public goods for the common good. And we are trying to do that really well at LexArts.

Christine: I have a specific interest in public art and have for a very long time, from Dynamic Doors in 2002 to Horse Mania to the Outdoor Mural Project and more recent developments like the murals being installed by PRHBTN. Do you have any insight there as far how LexArts might encourage more conversation about public art?

Nan: Great, great question. I am not hearing, “Okay, we’ve got enough public art, you can stop now.” I’m seeing a lot of enthusiasm and it was really exciting to me that that article in Herald-Leader, which I was looking at online in the period between my hire and my arrival, that the lead story on Sunday above the fold with a big color picture is about art, I thought, woo-hoo! So it’s controversial.  Art is a topic about which thoughtful, intelligent, loving, well-educated, wonderful people can and will disagree. That’s the point. So, not everyone is going to love everything that goes up in a public or publicly visible private space. I don’t think everybody loves Bernini either. I’m not sure everybody thought that The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel was totally thrilled with it at first. So this is a process. And contemporary art is a conversation and while it can be absolutely beautiful, most artists are really asking you to engage with their idea, not to admire their technique.

Tom: One recent development that has received publicity is LexArts sponsoring a new theater group. Isn’t this a conflict of interest for an organization that has community arts organizations vying competitively for funding from LexArts?

Nan: Supporting a new theater group?

Christine: Athens West.

Nan: Support is a spectrum at LexArts and financial support for competitive grant process is not the only way we support arts organizations. Maybe some folks think it should be the only way we do that. I guess that’s the question, but it hasn’t been. And so, the short answer is: it’s not a conflict of interest, it’s a different interest. It’s a different way that LexArts supports the arts here. And it kind of goes to the question of well, how many things can you be to how many people? There are lots of resources that LexArts brings to the arts community. One of them is funding, and another is expertise. We’re a staff of five at this point, so every function has somebody’s name on it. The community has invested us with this (and by the community, I mean the whole nation) IRS tax-exempt status – it is conferred upon an organization by the people. So we use that to benefit organizations that don’t yet have them. So, that’s a long answer to that question.

Christine: The question arises at a very tumultuous time for other theater organizations.

Nan: Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Tom: Theater, like many art forms in Lexington, ebbs and flows and at the moment we have some new companies that are beginning to rise. And then, there’s Balagula Theatre which has brought really provocative content to the stage.

Nan: Yes, they have been a general offering support partner at LexArts. Part of my job is getting out to see all that I can. Imagine getting paid to do that. In December, my daughter and I got to see Venus in Fur on a Friday night before the announcement of (co-director) Ryan Case’s resignation. And I was just flabbergasted because it was so good. I’ve been a theater kid all my life and while I don’t see nearly as much theater as I would like, I like to call myself an expert. I like to think I know what’s good. That was really good. I thought it was wonderful. That’s me as an arts consumer. My next task is to really get to know them as an organization and learn how can we help.  So, yeah, lots of ebb and flow at the moment and I guess Lexington should consider itself lucky that there are folks who are coming to theater.  Not everything succeeds and that’s one of the reasons that LexArts exists: to level the playing field. One of the things that I would love to see happen with increased funding to LexArts is to fund artistic startups – entrepreneurial creative endeavors.

Christine: Sure. But one of the things I think is a very serious problem is the development and retention of audience. Frequently it will be to the downfall of the organization because there’s nobody coming, there’s no one attending. Goes back to marketing…

Nan: Yeah, Michael Kaiser who wrote The Art of the Turnaround and then two more books – a kind of trilogy on arts organization management, has brought forward a model to every organization that he’s helped: great arts, aggressively marketed. The two need to exist together for success. You could have something that is aggressively marketed and if it’s no good the audience figures that out pretty fast. So, they go hand in hand. I’m not sure what that would look like in Lexington, but  think that’s something that – we already do work at, you know. For the visual arts, for example, Gallery Hop has been going on for a long time, it’s one of our oldest programs, I think.

Christine: Very successful.

Nan: Very successful. We talked about how – like every arts organization, perhaps – we need to upgrade our website.

Tom: See if my impression is correct just of your vision because I think I’m hearing something here that’s a little…

Nan: I hope I’m being consistent.

Tom: You are.  It sounds to me as if you view LexArts’ role as one which creates that level playing field and makes it possible for individuals, groups, organizations to merit consideration because they are good at articulating what they want to do. It makes it possible for them to receive support based on merits versus ‘who you know.’

Nan: Um-hm. Yeah. I like the way you said that. I think that the call from the community is: we need more, we need more, we need more. And growing an arts organization – even one like LexArts that has a long history and is sort of an institution – is a little like building Brunelleschi’s Dome: you build one course and you stand on it to build the next. It’s incremental. So, it’s matter of learning what needs most to be done next and then being able to build the resources to do that, because the temptation is to say, “Sure, we will. Oh, we’d love to do that. Yeah, let’s try.” And then, you’re not doing well at anything for anyone. And, so we need to avoid that, resist that temptation and really learn strategies about saying no to a whole bunch of good ideas. And so,  figuring out our strategy based on what we can do and who are. ‘We’ are five people, ‘we’ are this board, ‘we’ are an arts organization, ‘we’ are the organizations that feed into us, ‘we’ are our donors. You know?

Tom: One last question that was raised during the search for new leadership: Is LexArts strictly about fundraising? Or is it, in addition to fundraising, also about advocacy for the arts? And can those two things be balanced without conflicting?

Nan: (LexArts board chair) John Long has said that LexArts’ mission and vision came under scrutiny at this transitional point and they thought about it a lot. Funding and advocacy are there together. And that conflict is the nature of human existence I think and again, transparency is the best solution for when those conflicts appear. If they appear, you name them: ‘uh-oh, these things are in conflict.’ That’s not necessarily bad. Conflicts get resolved all the time. And so, if there’s a perceived conflict, call it and look at it.

Christine: Under Main exists to examine things a little more thoroughly – take them a little deeper. In fact, I would love to see a series of meetings with you that incorporate video or audio about the various topics that we’ve only broached today. We thank you Nan for your time and your dedication to the arts and look forward to what lies ahead.

All, Arts, Environment, Music

LexArts Receives NEA Grant for “Livestream”

 (From LexArts press release)

Lexington, KY – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced yesterday that LexArts is one of 919 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. LexArts is recommended for a $40,000 grant to support “Livestream,” a transmedia public art installation commissioned by LexArts and Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s Department of Environmental Quality and Public Works as part of the EcoART program.

“Livestream” will combine art, science, and technology to raise environmental awareness by engaging individuals in the sustainment of one of our most valuable resources: groundwater. The EcoART program was created to educate the public on environmental issues through artistic creation.

Selected through an artist call, the artistic team known as Public Works Collaborative consists of founder and designer, Kiersten Nash; musician, Ben Sollee; engineer, Sean Montgomery; public artist, Bland Hoke; and educator, Dan Marwit. The project is in partnership with the Kentucky Geological Survey and has the support of LexArts and the Dan Marwit.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “I’m pleased to be able to share the news of our support through Art Works including the award to LexArts. The arts foster value, connection, creativity and innovation for the American people and these recommended grants demonstrate those attributes and affirm that the arts are part of our everyday lives.”

“‘Livestream’ will engage people in a way few public art projects do. Not only through sound as well as sight, but also experiencing the world around and specifically under us, this project will make an impact in a very immediate way,” continued Ellen A. Plummer, LexArts President & CEO. “The collaboration among these artists, musicians and scientists is extraordinary. We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts and our LFUCG partners for helping LexArts bring this complex work to life.”

Art Works grants support the creation of art, public engagement with art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancement of the livability of communities through the arts. The NEA received 1,474 eligible applications under the Art Works category, requesting more than $75 million in funding. Of those applications, 919 are recommended for grants for a total of $26.6 million. For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at arts.gov. Follow the conversation about this and other NEA-funded projects on Twitter at #NEAFall2014.

Arts

Finalists Announced for Oliver Lewis Way Bridge Public Art Project

Lexington, KY – LexArts Inc., in association with 2nd District Council Member Shevawn Akers and the LFUCG Corridors Commission, earlier this year issued a call to artists for the creation of public art that enhances the Oliver Lewis Way Bridge, located just south of the intersection of Main Street and Newtown Pike. The call resulted in over 100 submissions from across the United States, Canada and Europe.

After thorough review by a selection committee comprised of artists, arts professionals and community leaders, and including public input, three finalists have been identified and commissioned to create site-specific proposals. The finalists are: Blessing Hancock, Tuscon, AZ; Guy Kemper, Lexington, KY; and Christopher Weed, Colorado Springs, CO.

The proposals will be on display for public discussion at ArtsPlace beginning January 16, the inaugural Gallery Hop of 2015, and will remain on exhibit through the end of January. A review of the final designs, along with the public’s input, will be conducted by the selection committee and one artist or artist team will be selected to realize their proposal.

The budget for the project is $100,000, making this one of the largest public art projects the city of Lexington has ever commissioned. While the timeline for completion will not be known until the selection of the winning design, the hope remains that Lexington’s newest public art project will be unveiled and dedicated by October 30, 2015 when Keeneland and the city of Lexington will host the Breeder’s Cup World Championships, one of Throughbred racing’s most prestigious international events.

The Oliver Lewis Way bridge carries State Highway 922 across Town Branch Creek and over active railroad tracks that belong to RJ Corman, Lexington’s local short line railroad company. The location of the bridge is at the edge of the historic bourbon distillery district and would be a permanent feature within the proposed 46 acre Rupp Arena, Arts and Entertainment district. Open for traffic since 2010, the bridge was constructed with future public art in mind — the pillars were constructed to support the additional weight of sculptural or other physical pieces and were outfitted with additional electric capacity.

“The Oliver Lewis Way Bridge will transform the western gateway into Lexington into an artful and welcoming space,” said LexArts President and CEO Nan Plummer. ” It is very exciting and important that the public will take part in the selection process. We hope that many, many people share their opinions on the site-specific proposals, which will be on display at ArtsPlace for the January 16th Gallery Hop and the following two weeks.”

“Newtown Pike is a primary gateway to Lexington and our downtown,” continued 2nd District Council Member Shevawn Akers. “Each finalist brings unique talents, bodies of work and perspectives that will inspire both residents and visitors. I can’t wait to see what these three artists envision for beautifying this important corridor.”

Because of an adjacent property ownership, local architecture firm POHL ROSA POHL became engaged as a stakeholder in the bridge project. A long-prominent voice for design excellence, POHL ROSA POHL was invited to participate in the design process and contributed significant volunteer time and energy to the project, becoming the primary advocates for the bridge as public art.

Clive Pohl, Principal with Pohl Rosa Pohl, observed, “The Oliver Lewis Way Bridge was conceived as something special. However, getting it beyond the mundane, to be an expressive sponsor of public art, took countless hours by paid professionals and visionary volunteers. I am very excited by the prospect that, at last, prominent sculpture will complete the composition to create the artful gateway that Lexington so deserves. Another crowning achievement for our great community and LexArts.”